Angie was in despair. Her mother had authorised Angie’s sister, Jessica, to be a signatory on her bank account. But Jessica had a drug addiction and had taken money from her mother’s account in $2,000 and $3,000 lots.

Angie’s mum said she did not recall signing the authority, so Angie rang Seniors Rights Service to find out what, if anything, her mum could do. We told Angie that if a person with capacity voluntarily signs an authority without duress or undue influence, there is no recourse against the bank, since the bank is acting within the terms of the authority.

The only remedy would be if Angie’s mum had made it clear to Jessica (preferably in writing) that access to the account was given solely so she could spend funds in her mother’s best interests. In that case, the mother could take debt recovery action against Jessica for misappropriation of funds. However, we also pointed to the possible futility of taking action against someone like Jessica, who has little or no money or assets.